August 21, 1998 at 04:00 AM EDT

Robert Johnson: The Complete Recordings

Current Status
In Season
Robert Johnson
Reissues, Blues

JOHNSON WAX The idea of a previously unheard bonus track on a Robert Johnson album would seem to fly in the face of logic. After all, the legendary bluesman — who, according to myth, sold his soul to the devil in exchange for his musical genius — was murdered in 1938. The party line among blues scholars has always been that the 29 songs he cut during five sessions in 1936 and 1937 (and which were collected, along with alternate takes, on the gold-certified 1990 compilation The Complete Recordings) constituted the extent of Johnson’s oeuvre. Now comes the news that a previously unknown alternate take of ”Traveling Riverside Blues” has been unearthed, and will be included on Columbia/Legacy’s September reissue of Johnson’s King of the Delta Blues Singers. The track surfaced when Alan Jabbour, director of the Library of Congress’ American Folklife Center, discovered it while listening to tapes donated to the center by ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax. ”It’s really almost bizarre” how the song appeared, says Legacy exec Adam Block. ”It’s totally in keeping with the whole [mystique] surrounding Johnson.” Hmmm. If the devil’s really got all the good tunes, it looks like he’s releasing them on his own schedule.

TUTTI FRUTTI, ALL RUDE-Y Screenwriter Tina Andrews says Little Richard, the man who once called himself ”the bronze Liberace,” exhibited a less than sterling side of his character by publicly dissing her. According to Andrews, Richard flatly refused to be photographed with her during filming of her upcoming Frankie Lymon biopic, Why Do Fools Fall in Love?, in which Richard appears as himself. The screenwriter — who says she loves Richard so much that she wrote a part for him into the film and went to bat for him when producers balked at paying the flamboyant singer’s asking price — can’t fathom the reason for the snub: ”He said no [to being photographed with me] in front of everybody. He actually said, ‘You’re the writer — I can’t take any pictures with you.’ It was embarrassing, because he went on to take pictures with almost everyone else on the set. Quite frankly, I was hurt. It was just so wrong.” On his last day of filming, the star did relent, allowing one photo of himself with Andrews to be taken. But, says the writer, ”he kept the picture, because he has photo approval, and I never got a copy.” Responding through a spokesperson, a disingenuous Richard said only: ”I did take a picture with her.” In other words: Shut up, Miss Thang.

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